Meet My Friend. His name is Edgar (name changed).
Edgar and I became friends in middle school. By the time we entered college in 2007 (me in North Carolina, and him in Connecticut), our conversations occurred less frequently. But when they did happen, they lasted for hours. We discussed everything from politics and race relations in the United States, to music or the latest sports wins. Always extravagantly decorating his sentences with foul language, Edgar kept me abreast of what he was learning in school, his party life, and details of his latest love interests.
Chats with Edgar were always thought-provoking, engaging, and had us both yelling at each other and laughing with one another. Yet no matter how long we were on the phone or instant messenger, our conversations always circled back to God. Though he sometimes read the Bible, Edgar didn’t believe there was only one way to God.
In college, I began praying for Edgar to meet Jesus, and I asked some of my friends to do the same. I wanted it to happen, but I struggled to believe it would because he just wasn’t interested.
Towards the end of one of our multi-hour phone conversations on a cold January day in 2009, a thought popped in my mind: “Elisabeth, you should pray with Edgar.” I glanced at the clock and told myself...well...let’s face it - I told God, “Um - it’s almost 3:00am. I’m going to sleep.”
The thought from God returned: “Elisabeth, pray with Edgar.”
Me, with a frown on my face: “He’s going to laugh at me and won’t take me seriously. And I’m tired!” So, I told Edgar it was time to go. After hanging up, I proceeded to pray for him.
But that thought wouldn’t let up - I had to pray with Edgar. So, shortly after we hung up, I reluctantly re-dialed his number.
“Hey Ed,” I said after he answered, “...Um. I feel like I should pray with you, so I’m just gonna do it, okay?”
He paused. I held my breath. After a few beats, he responded, “Okay.”
So I prayed. I don’t remember exactly what I said. I remember feeling awkward at first, and then pouring my heart out, praying for Edgar to enter a relationship with Jesus, and praying for blessings to abound in his life.
When I finished, he sniffed and through a choked up voice forced out the words, “Thank you for praying with me, Elisabeth,” and he hastily hung up.
I didn’t hear from him for some time, but I kept praying for him.
Seven months later, Edgar called me saying he had good news. Over the next hour, he shared with me how his life radically changed after he dedicated his life to Jesus a few weeks prior.
I celebrated with him, but I also had to repent. You see, I’d sort of stepped into the intercessory role - praying for my friend and praying for breakthrough in his life. But for some time, I didn’t consistently believe what I was praying. I struggled sometimes to truly believe Edgar would come to love Jesus. The one major exception was when I prayed with him that night on the phone.
I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t called Edgar back to pray with him. I think he would’ve still come to know Jesus. But I wouldn’t have been part of his story. I wouldn’t have known the sweet victory of interceding for someone and seeing the answer come to pass. I would’ve missed on an opportunity to experience the power of breakthrough. I saw that breakthrough happen when Edgar - the apathetic, pluralistic college kid who didn’t need the God of the Bible - broke into tears on the phone when he felt the presence and the love of God.
I’m not saying my prayers and those of my friends are solely responsible for Edgar coming to Jesus. But I do believe in the power of prayer. Jesus promises in Matthew 18:
18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
Webster’s dictionary defines intercession as, “prayer, petition, or entreaty in favor of another.” Jesus, in John 17, models intercession as He prays to God on our behalf. In John 17:20-23, He prays for us to be united with the Father, and for unity among believers.
Sometimes intercession doesn’t seem successful. We may pray for a loved one’s healing, only to see them pass on. In a similar way, we don’t always successfully live out what Jesus prayed for us. I can point to times where I’ve fallen out of unity with the Father. Jesus knew believers would struggle to be united together - whether due to race relations, perspectives on homosexuality, or views on prosperity, to name a few. Yet He faithfully intervened on our behalf to the Father. And when I read His words in John 17, I feel encouraged and spurred on towards connecting with Abba Father and with my fellow beloved in Christ.
Intercession and prayer make possible the impossible (see Matthew 21:21-22) and can also serve as a way to encourage the ones for whom we pray. In that moment when I prayed with Edgar on the phone, he later told me he felt love in a way he never had before, thawing his heart and helping him begin to be receptive to the love of the Father.
What About You?
Have you lost your fire to intercede for someone or something? Identify and admit those places. I encourage you to repent for doubting God in those areas, and ask the Lord to replace that sense of doubt with His confidence (check out Hebrews 4:16).
Ask Him to give you the words to pray. It may get hard, but please don’t quit. Your intercession really does move mountains.